Transforming Barrio Mugica - Buenos Aires, Argentina

Study case type
Best practice

As Argentina’s most symbolic informal settlement, Barrio Padre Carlos Mugica – formerly known as Villa 31 – was identified for comprehensive redevelopment through the Barrio Mugica Integration Project, seeking to reintegrate the community into the rest of the city. As of 2016–17, the community accommodated 40,203 inhabitants, half of which under-24s or immigrants. The street conditions and inadequate waste management systems have heightened the risk of disease, whilst openly exposed, informal electric grids and informal power lines have made for an extremely dangerous living environment.

Stakeholders Involved
  • The Social and Urban Integration Secretariat was created in 2015 to tackle these kinds of growing problems.
  • The Participatory Management Council was then created to be an advisory body and assist with the management, encouraging participation of local residents, issuing recommendations and monitoring compliance with city laws.
  • In addition to this, monthly working groups and thematic roundtables are held to ensure the participation of citizens from each area through which existing challenges. 
  • A dedicated team was subsequently deployed locally to access all areas of city government, organize messages and distribute appropriate communication to the population to avoid over-information.

Barrio Mugica presented a range of difficult conditions, making it necessary for an integral development plan to ensure a successful outcome. For instance, the neighbourhood's conditions were dire, with mostly informal electricity connections and recurring floods caused by the lack of drainage that prevented kids from going to school, among other issues. Housing was precarious, and decades of unplanned urban expansion have resulted in the development of a large informal economy. 50 per cent of the residents received an informal salary, double the number compared to the rest of Buenos Aires. Crucially, there were no public schools within Barrio Mugica. Finally, health has long presented a major obstacle in the community where the risk of contracting diseases and injury was increased through deficient ventilation and poor physical infrastructure. Indeed, the neighbourhood had been cut off from the formal healthcare system, leaving residents at far greater risk.


Regenerative and integrated planning and design have afforded the local community new opportunities, delivering new affordable housing, basic services and employment, increasing the quality of life and living environment. Infrastructural upgrades have aimed to improve safety and integrate basic services, as well as increase access to public services such as formalized employment opportunities, education and healthcare. In addition, the renovation of public spaces, housing delivery and upgrading, and the construction of schools and health centres have also been integral in enhancing local development. Effective communities have been integral and access to information (on urbanization) has been seen as a pillar of citizen participation

Among the many examples, several stand out for a diverse range of topics:

  • Healthcare: a ‘SAME’ base (the city’s public emergency medical system) was created to respond to medical emergencies, as well as increased emergency lanes to quickly access the various areas of the Barrio.
  • Public infrastructure: the Barrio was connected to the formal services of the city’s water and electricity providers, ensuring the same standards and modes of maintenance as the rest of the city. Additionally, road works were undertaken to reduce congestion and improve flow, circulation, and links with the city.
  • Land: Processes of regularizing the ownership of land were undertaken.
  • Housing: The Housing Improvement Programme was launched, focusing on both interior and exterior upgrading.
  • WasteSolid waste management upgrades have seen over 5,000 homes separate their waste.
  • Education: A renovation and upgrading project of the closest school was initiated transforming it into the Mugica Educational Hub. This is now the largest public school in the city with over 1,800 school places.
  • Jobs: The Centre for Entrepreneurial and Labour Development (CeDEL) was built as a prosperity nexus for local residents: in its first two years and a half, over 60 per cent of the economically active population had approached CeDEL.

The project has extended far beyond that of simple construction with a means of providing equal rights, conditions and opportunities, but has sought to fully reintegrate the underlying social, economic and urban fabric of the neighbourhood back into the city, creating living conditions that enhance socio-economic development.

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Awarded entity
Barrio Mugica Integration Project (Government of the City of Buenos Aires)
Awarding entity
Shanghai Manual